April 24, 2023

Episode 251: Sean Bennett, CTO & co-founder of Stronghold

Sean Bennett is the co-founder of Stronghold, a leading financial infrastructure company that provides fast, secure, and accessible financial services through a simple API. Stronghold, recently named a Forbes Fintech 50 company, makes payments quicker and easier while maintaining regulatory compliance and interoperability between payment systems. Sean is a renowned technology expert in the digital currency space, having designed and executed some of the first distributed cross-border transactions of sovereign currencies.

In 2013, Sean started building stablecoin technology on Ripple to streamline the remittances process after experiencing its obstacles firsthand. Passionate about the power of digital currencies, he left medical school in 2014 to found Coinex Gateway. Coinex Gateway empowered consumers to move fiat currency via the Ripple and Stellar networks - in doing so, Sean helped build Ripple and Stellar’s first stablecoins (USD, AUD, and NZD). Sean continued innovating on the Stellar network by designing a remittance gateway that could solve the issues millions face when sending money home to their families. There, he met Tammy Camp (who was leading growth efforts at Stellar). They decided to found Stronghold to develop payments and financial infrastructure for all.

Sean holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from the University of Otago and a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Massey University.

Julian: Hi, everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we'reinterviewing Sean Bennett, CTO and co-founder of Stronghold. Stronghold is aleading financial infrastructure company that provides fast, secure, andaccessible financial services through a simple api. Sean, I'm so excited tochat with you, not only to learn about your background, your experience, butalso.

What's so exciting and, and typicallyjust like, what's changing and evolving in the, digital currency and, and spaceand, and really, and from a infrastructural standpoint what it's gonna mean to,those who are maybe not avid users or not currently using products that, dealwith digital currency, but you know, this infrastructure layer that's reallygonna allow other technologies to really reach a huge mass audience is reallyexciting to me and our audience.

On, on how you know what's being built,how's it currently, where it is in in, in this, life cycle and process. Butalso what it's gonna mean in terms of the different partnerships and companiesyou're working with. But before we get into all that, what were you doingbefore you started the company?

Sean: And, and thanks verymuch having me on Julian before. Co-founding Stronghold. I, I mean my, myjourney to getting into this business really started back in 2011. I was atmedical school at the time, thought I wanted to, to be a doctor, right? That,that very different pathway. And Bitcoin came into, my, my mind when I saw itbeing used as a donation mechanism for WikiLeaks because visa and MasterCardhad had dropped it right.

And I, and I saw, okay, there's got thisnew, programmable currency is really how I saw it at the time, right? While Iwas at med school, I was actually contracting as a software developer, to, topay the bills, right? And also learn some skills. And I, I thought that wasreally interesting.

But it wasn't until a few years laterthat the technology started to evolve and, and we started to see, traditionalcurrency start moving on top of blockchain technology. And that was superinteresting because. Hey, we're still using US Dollar, New Zealand dollar,Australian dollar, whatever it happened to be.

And so when I saw that starting tohappen, I I, I really jumped in and I started my own startup at that time. So,I took a research year at med school so I could have a bit more free time. AndI, I started building on top of the technology using, using those skills I hadbuilt up sort of freelancing as, as a software dev.

Julian: Yeah. Describe theevolution a little bit more. What in particular was exciting about seeing theadaptability of, say classical, currency into digital currency. What's thatrelationship that people may not know of in terms of, how the value mightchange in a, in a digital economy versus in a physical economy that we'retypically used to?

Sean: I said the, the thingI was always interested in was remittance because I have my, my mother's sideof the family lives in the Philippines, and so, I was always seeing. That, thatsort of transfer of value across borders over there and also cross currency.Yeah. And I, I think the hard thing about, digital currency when it comes tocryptocurrency, so Bitcoin ether, some alternative currency is that you, you'resort of introducing a new behavior because there's this, there's this extrastep of transfer where you have this new currency that people still aren'taware of.

And I think that for a lot of people,especially in the software tech world, I think our, our heads are already sortof over a Bitcoin or, or whatever it is, and we sort of forget that as an extrastep. But, the rest of the world, the, the consumers who really need it, they,they don't need that extra sort of mentor block of, oh, there's this extradigital currency that I need to think about.

How do I deal with storing that? Whatdoes that mean? Other extra regulations around that. So when the infrastructurefor moving that digital currency started to be applied to, the sovereigncurrencies that everyone knows and understands and use today, that was the bigdifference for me, right?

Because you are, you are, you'reeliminating that, that extra step, but you still have the ability to be able totransfer it across borders and be able to get rid of intermediary partiesbecause of that blockchain, digital nature. But it's. It's still, call it USdollar, Philippine Pacer, whatever it needs to be.

Yeah. So, so that was the reallyinteresting thing, 2013, 2014, that we started seeing changing and that's,that's why I jumped in.  

Julian: Yeah. And how do youdo that from a mechanical standpoint in, in, tying a physical currency, say U SD to U S D C? When in, in, in relationship to say things around inflationBitcoin, we only, there's only a certain amount minted, so there only will be acertain amount, I think.

Dogecoin was the first one to actually,create this mechanism that more will be kind of, created as the, as theenvironment kind of grows. But what does it mean in relationship to like U s dinflation and, and having a currency that, maybe is it more or less volatile?What's that relationship and what can we expect in terms of your predictionsof, of, I guess stable currency?

Sean: Yeah. So what, what I,what I was doing back in 2013 and 14 is very similar to how most of the stablecoins that people interact with today how, how they work today. And that reallyis, it's pretty basic. It's, you sort of send, let's say a hundred dollars intoa bank account that the stablecoin issuer, if it's U sdc, it would be circleholds in a bank account and they're basically giving you an i u on top of ablockchain, right?

And then you can transfer that as if itwas the same as a digital dollar. And then eventually someone else can bringthe IOU back to circle and say, okay, I want this back in the, I want a USdollar denominated wire to get the money back out of the blockchain. So that,so that's really how that's working.

So in terms of thinking about, the, theeconomics of how the, the Coin works, it really is just a US dollar now.Granted, there's some complications there and we've seen that recently play outwith some of the banks going down and, okay, where is the money behind the u sdc, actually stored?

And that was a big problem, right? Theydid have money at I think two of the banks that, that recently were closed andtaken over by the d i c and temporarily. The, the price of that stable Coinwent under $1. For a certain amount of time. Right. Obviously a problem. So Ithink that, what I'm particularly excited about and a lot of other people inthe space are, are sort of polarized on is what does it look like when thegovernment starts to issue those sort of coins.

Right. Or it's, it's not a deposited abank, it's actually on a Fed account somewhere. So it'll be interesting to seehow that plays out. And then it really is truly a US dollar at that stage.  

Julian: Yeah. And what doesthat mean in terms of, you bring in this, the, the currency into the digitaleconomy and, and then you're able to, send money and, and do these transactionat a, at a really kind of, unprecedented speed.

What does that mean for people who. Sayare, are typically have barriers transferring money. Say, my family's fromMexico and I wanted to transfer money to them, and now I'm able to do it in adigital economy. What does that mean for, how, how quickly currency and, andmoney can be transferred, but also the previous barriers, which was like,converting and, and having kind of all those fees around that, that conversionpercentage and things like that.

What does that change in terms of thatkind of experience?  

Sean: I, I, I think thebiggest one is removal of, of sort of all the intermediary. Parties thatgenerally, are, are involved in a transaction, that, that was the big originalone. Like if you were trying to send money via, via wire overseas, you'd haveall these correspondent banks in the way and each of them are taking a clip.

Right? Right. In fact, moving to the USI'm surprised how expensive wires still are to, to get money out out of thiscountry. Thank, thankfully, you don't have to use them. Now we've got somegreat services, like even Western Unions picked up with its digitaltransformation and, and, and transfer wise, they're all, they're all doing agreat job.

But you are still really reliant onthose parties to, to be controlling most of the system. The really nice thingabout having these digital currencies is you don't have to rely on one businessor one business that has relationships to process your entire transaction. Youcan sort of choose a way to get into the network.

You can transact within that networkfreely the controllers in your hands. If you're using your own digital wallet,you could even have custody of the tokens. Of your money, right? You'recontrolling it all and then you can pick any sort of service to get it back outto the traditional world.

And, hopefully over time the sort ofthe, the blockchain dream is that the sort of getting money in and out becomesless and less common because more of the economy is connected to that sort ofdecentralized layer, right? So it'll, it should be better over time. Is, is thehope for people in the industry.

Julian: Yeah. And, and for theaudience to get a little bit more context here, describe Stronghold, what theproduct is and how you're essentially helping your customer solve a fairlyparticular problem.  

Sean: Yeah, so, soStrongholds vision and mission are really around providing financial servicesfor all. So access for all is really what we're thinking about.

And earlier on in our journey, we were,we were really heavily looking at remittance because both myself and myco-founder, it's, it's what we really cared about coming into the space. But,but over time what we realized was a lot of the problems were really, reallyclose to, to home here in the domestic us.

Mm. There, there's still certain partsof in industries that are underbanked and unable to receive, financial servicesthat could be as basic as access to bank accounts. Yeah. Payments on top ofthat. And then other things like access to capital. And so what we decided totarget.

Using blockchain technology, but stilleverything's, tied to US dollar most of the time. Is, is looking at thoseunderserved niche industries, right? Where there might be higher regulations orit's harder to get banked and providing services to them. So we do, we providepayments and access to capital for generally small to medium business that,that work in restricted spaces.

So there's sort of. Like an agerestriction on a product, or it might be, a license like in the gaming orgambling industries. Right. We are able to, to help those customers. So that's,that's the niche we play in.  

Julian: Yeah. And describewhat that means in terms of giving people access to capital who areunderserved, whether it's because of their background, experience, maybe creditscore.

There's so many things that, I thinkmiss in the underwriting process traditionally, that doesn't allow people toget this access. But now that they're able to, and now that they're able toeven transact at a higher volume, what does that mean for those entrepreneursto grow and scale their business and really think about their opportunityrather than, trying to kind of survive in a, in a really, And the ecosystemwhere not a lot is set up for you, you to have success.

If you don't have, say, a lump sum ofcapital or a a, an amazing kind of underwriting kind of credit history, whatdoes that mean for people?  

Sean: Yeah. And I thinkthat's one of the things I'm most proud of about what we're doing atStronghold. I, I, and I'm also most excited about is, is the different way thatwe underwrite some of our, our products.

Right? Yeah. We work with entrepreneurswho do have. Spotty or colorful backgrounds, right? But we, we can look pastthat and understand the, the totality of the journey they've gone on.Understanding that, some of the industries we serve, just, just the fact thatthey were in those industries used to be illegal, right?

Yeah. And so we can, we can work pastthat and look at, what's changed where they're trying to head to and, and keepmoving forward with them. So even just giving them access to payments often isa, is a huge. Yeah. Step forward to them instead of just having to use cash ahundred percent of the time.

Right, right. So, okay, now we get themon board with digital payments. It's a lot easier to track that actually canhelp them get access to traditional bank accounts. Right. Because the banks areseeing, oh, you're working with a, a trusted party and Stronghold and we cansee a lot of your, transactions are now going through a digital payment methodand we can actually see where that money's coming from.

Right. It's sort of, Sort of continuesto snowball, but then because we have access to the data of their payments,we're able to very easily underwrite things like cash advances to them. Yeah.Yeah. And so now, now let's get really interesting and we're able to provide,our merchant customers with it could be as simple as, having more inventory sothat they can, expand a delivery operation all the way to, okay, we are, we areactually ready to start opening, new locations, but we just, we've got goodcash flow, but, it's a huge upfront cost so we can start giving them the fundsthere to, grow from a small operation with one store to multiple locations.

That's a huge step change for thesepeople. And they can't go into a bank and ask for a loan. Yeah. So it's, it'sreally transformative for them. So that's really what I'm excited about usdoing.  

Julian: And, and what does itmean for, say, transacting globally differently from what it's beentraditionally where, whether it's, actually say, there's all these platforms,say like five or three.

Since if I'm like a developer or a web,Webflow developer and everything's kind of transacted through webflow, so Idon't really have to think about a lot of that. But if I'm a small business whosay, wants to interact and say, expanding globally whether I have a particularservice or product, what does that mean for my ability to access and, and ifpayments and capital quickly with my customers for how I can grow and expand mybusiness?

Do we see, is the technologysophisticated enough to be able to really make an impact there? Or are we stilla little bit behind on that market?  

Sean: Yeah, so Strongholdreally focuses on domestic payments in the us. However, a lot of thetechnologies we're interacting with really do allow for much easierinternational acceptance of, of, of funds because, if you've got say, U S D Con top of a blockchain like Ethereum, it doesn't really matter where thosefunds are coming from anymore.

Right? Yeah. They're, they're, they'recoming from the blockchain. If you're built to that, it doesn't matter if it'ssomeone sending them from New Zealand, Argentina. Japan, it, it, it no longermatters. I think that the biggest issue that we still have in, in getting tothat sort of utopia of accepting payments from everywhere is, well, how doesmy, I've just sent an invoice to someone.

How, how do they get money into thesystem? It's the on and off ramp that are still really difficult. And even herein the US it looks like that there we're having a problem with on-ramps becauseof the recent banking failures. So, that's still something that hasn't beensolved, a decade later.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. What wasinteresting, and something I didn't really know about and maybe, I don't knowif our audience knows, but you have this really interesting partnership withIBM that allows you to kind of partner with them and their technology anddescribe how that, in terms of the IBM technology, how that's really allowed,what you've been able to do, bill, what?

You've been able to build kind of howthat's kind of, that relationship is versus say, the traditional ways that weknow about blockchain, which is, Bitcoin Ethereum helps you build off and usetheir infrastructure. But what is the difference between this partnership andwhat's been exciting about working with a company like IBM to build out,financial tools and infrastructure?

Sean: Yeah, so I, the IBMWorld Worldwide Project was really about helping. Remittance companies andfinancial institutions sort of settle their books with each other on a regularbasis. Right. So instead of having to do it the old-fashioned way, which wasgoing to be working with correspondent banks in the process, slow, expensive,they would be able to do it in a more realtime fashion and directly with eachother.

Mm-hmm. Right. And they could still besome, consolidation of, of how the settlement works, but it, it allowed forparty to party settlement. So, they'd have your, your. Let's just sayconsumers, you might be trying to send money from the US to the Philippines.Everything looks normal there.

And these are existing remittancecompanies. So they're doing this day-to-day already. However, instead of havingto settle funds the old way, they would, they would use blockchain essentially.And so that was we created Stronghold U S D, which was a stable Coin that worksvery similarly to say U SDC Circle.

And they would use that as theirsettlement vehicle. And so that was the big difference there. It was changingtheir backend operations without having to introduce any new behavioral changeto the consumer. And I think that's really important. I think the mostsuccessful projects are going to look like that.

Yeah. You won't, you won't notice themhappening necessarily. Right? Yeah. There were efficiencies that they could,pass through to the customer. So that's really what that one was about.  

Julian: Yeah. And, and what inparticular does this change in terms of the paradigm of, of the pressure that'snow being put on like, traditional large legacy financial institutions to beable to, become more, more digitally native and, and faster and have more kindof, Advanced technology, what does that change in, in the last five years or,or more or less in, in terms of that pressure that's being pushed onto them,seeing that people are kind of ready to either, if, if they don't evolve andadvance and allow all these abilities that say other technology that maybe quoteunquote, a little bit more risky or non-traditional, they're, they're ready tokind of jump ship and go into these other other means.

How have you seen. These institutionskind of take on that pressure and, and evolve and, and what has your been, what,what is your prediction to to how they'll continue to evolve?  

Sean: Yeah. I, I, I thinkover the last five years we've seen a, a, a big push for larger fi,institutional style fi sort of accelerators and.

Pitching contests, they, they, theyreally are doing, I think, a good job because of, how big they, and how slowthey might be to move Yeah. Of trying to understand what's happening out there,with entrepreneurs and, and fintechs. I, I, I think, I think acquisition will,will become, a lot more important.

But I, I think, and, and maybe becauseof what we did with ibm, these sort of. Internal teams building out essentiallywhat is a startup. Yeah. I think we'll see a lot more of that coming up. Cuzthere's, there's been some issues with some recent acquisitions into thelarger, the larger companies.

I, I, I think we'll see their internalteams starting to build out more of this capability. I think, I think they'reready to start doing that more. So I think that's what we'll see.  

Julian: Yeah. Tell us a littlebit about, the attraction that you've seen at Stronghold. What has beenexciting about what you've built up to this point?

The, the amount of users and customersand partners that you've been able to accumulate and, and, really add value to,but what's particularly exciting about the next phase of Stronghold and, andwhat you're looking forward to start building on?  

Sean: One of the, one of thethings I really like about what we're doing at the moment is the fact that wesort of have, one foot in the traditional world, right?

All of, most of our customers don't.Need to know about the fact our other foot is in the crypto world. Sure. Right.So we do a lot of, I think bridging between those two worlds. We take valuefrom, things like blockchain and decentralized finance especially, and that'swhat I'm really excited about.

And then we pass the value back throughto our traditional customers, giving them interfaces that they'd, expect at a,at a, at a more traditional, Bank really. So growth on say the decentralizedfinance side is what I think we'll start to see more and more of. And, andthat's really what I'm excited for.

A little bit, maybe some, maybe someroad bumps on the way. Right? The crypto market is a little bit down. That doesn'treally matter to us, except the fact that it sort of means interest is a littlebit lower, but the players that are gonna be around long term, There's, there'squite a few of them there, and we are just happy that they continue to buildbecause we can leverage that.

But that, that's really where I thinkmost of our, our growth will be in the future. Taking that value and bringingit back to a traditional market.  

Julian: Yeah. If, whether it'sexternal or internal, what are some of the biggest risks that Stronghold facestoday?  

Sean: One of the, one of thebiggest risks for us, one of the biggest things to navigate has to beregulation.

Yeah. Right. We are, very focused onNorth America, particularly the US. And as we see playing out right now, someinteresting movements by by the government on, financial institutions thatwe're really holding up access to crypto inside the us. Yeah. So, we've alwaysgot our eyes on that.

We do have presence in, in overseasentities as well, which gives us a little bit of flexibility, and that's one ofthe ways that we sort of mitigate things. But really staying ahead ofregulation is super important to us. So I think that most of the moves we'vemade have looked really conservative, especially to other people in the cryptospace.

Yeah. And that's because we need to makesure that whatever we're doing sustainable given that, regulations could, couldchange at any time. And, I, I sort of agree with, the, the, the chair of the se c at the moment that the, the regulation, well the legislation is sufficient.

To, to cover crypto today. It's justreally in the application. Yeah. So I, I think that's, that's the biggest thingthat's, that's in our mind whenever we're launching a new product or doinganything new. Just, just making sure we're safe from that point of view.  

Julian: Yeah. And, and we heara lot of, negative kind of reasons behind regulation or, and how it limits andthings along that nature, but what are some of the benefits that you see inthis kind of, within crypto at least?

And we've obviously heard some, bad newswith, bad actors and, and, but all that behavior was not, Crypto for it is justkind of human behavior mostly. Right? But what, what, what, what's been kindof, I, I guess, beneficial about the regulations that you're seeing and, andhow will that help consumers at least maybe even trust digital currency moreso?

Sean: Yeah, it, it, it'sreally going to come down to interpretation, giving everyone in the industry areally clear interpretation of, of how the current rules apply. And then justmaking sure they're actually followed. Yeah. I, I think that the, theregulations, especially when it comes to consumer protection are, are prettygood.

They're, they're, they're really good. They'rethere for a point. They've worked previously as the ECC keeps telling us. Andthey're, they're there for a reason and I, a lot of these recent failures, youare absolutely right. It has nothing to do with, yeah. The crypto industry assuch. It really is just people and greed a lot of the time.

So I'm generally pro-regulation, whichis not a, not a thing people want to hear a lot, lot of the time in this space.But the, the best thing it can give businesses are guide rails. Okay, here,here are your guide rails, you know how to operate. Here's some clear guidanceand this is how we'll enforce it.

That's really all we need. And that lastbit clarity and how we'll enforce it, I think that's the bit we are stillmissing.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I thinkconsumers a lot of times think it think it'll affect them, but like youmentioned, I think it's a lot about, the, the, the structure of business, how,how they should perform and, and what should they be guided by.

Which from a consumer, at least, that givesme some kind of confidence in that things should be at a certain standard,right? It's why we go to certain restaurants versus others is it's why wereally choose certain products over another as well is, is what ourexpectations are for that interaction involvement.

Whether you, If in a perfect world, ifeverything goes well, what's the long-term vision for Stronghold?  

Sean: I just wanted to add alittle bit onto that. Yeah. You, you, you've done something really good withthe, the, the consumer choice. Yeah. And, and I think that's super important.The consumer, especially when it comes to, to crypto and blockchain will alwayshave the ability to choose the more regulated, domestic looking more, slightlymore centralized service that, that has those protections.

But there'd probably still be a way forthem to access the more decentralized services. They might on-ramp through onethat's regulated and then go to, it's a decentralized organization runningsomething. So they'll, I hope that they will still have access to that, but itshould very much be opt-in, right?

You're gonna opt into that sort of morewild west world to, to, to put it one way and access, the benefits. And thecons that you, that you might get of, of doing that. So yeah, choice. We canstill have choice even with regulation.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I lovethat. And then, yeah, long term vision, if everything goes well, what does thatlook like?

Sean: I think for us, atStronghold, it's, it's continuing to broaden the, the audience that we're ableto serve, right? We're all about financial access for all. And it's expandingthat both in markets that we serve, so geographies, right? It would be great tobe going back international. We've been making some inroads into Canada, butstill very close to home.

But it would be great to go, properlyinternational again. And I think the, the other one is more industries, servingmore industries, right? We went very niche in covid to, to solve a particularuse case and that was really good. Yeah, the, we, we got good penetrationthere. The, the customer base loves us because we were really needed.

But, I, I think we're, we're getting toa point of where we're ready to start expanding out of that again, given therevenues that were generated to, to, give us a bit of booth for growth. So,that that's, that's really what we're doing. And I think trying to find moreuses for DeFi over time to centralize finance.

Yeah, so we're, we do cash advancestoday, but what, what other programs can we run utilizing that backend? That'swhat I'm interested in as well.  

Julian: Yeah. I love this nextsection. I call it my Founder faq. So I'm gonna hit you with some rapid firequestions and we'll see where we go. First things up is I always like to openit up with with particularly hard about your job day to day.

Sean: Oh, I am an engineerat heart. So I think that, the, the most important thing of the, of the companyare other people. Yeah. But that's, that's also, that can also be quite achallenge. Right. Especially for someone with my brain. So learning, learningthat process is really important to me.

And so getting the coaching and thementoring I need to make that happen. Super important.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I alwayslike to ask founders, what's one thing that you know you're particularly betterat now that you wish you were better at earlier on in your career?  

Sean: Un understanding thevalue of maintaining relationships with other parties.

I, I, I think is the biggest thing. Iunderweighted that for a long time. And I learned that really from myco-founder actually. Right. Just touching base because you never know when,when you, you're gonna need someone else's support. So I think that's one ofthe biggest things for me.  

Julian: Yeah. Do you do thatin, in a very direct way, so like, a lot of people will have an investor boardor, and they kind of continue with email updates, or is it, content driven?

Is it something where you're building arelationship with the community? What, what ways have you been able to kind ofkeep. I guess in contact with those who are, around or, or involved in somewhataspect of your business, who, may have, may find value in it, later on.

Sean: All, all, all thethings you've just mentioned are, are, are great. And I, but I think that oneof the, the, the big things that came out of, going through the Covid pandemicwas just actually being able to spend some face-to-face time with someone.Right. So maybe making that conference trip that you don't want to go to, butyou know that if certain people are gonna be there.

So, just showing up, just showing up andhaving presence with them is something that I definitely underrated earlyon.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I alwayslike to speculate with certain questions, but, in, in terms of what havingaccess to, digital currency and digital economy, whether it's domestically orglobally, in terms of how it affects entrepreneurs.

What do you think its effect gonna be interms of the investing environment? Being that, obviously we've seen a hugeshift. A lot of companies are not investing in users anymore. They're investingin profitable businesses or businesses with predictable revenues and who havesome kind of maturity.

But even going, kind of expanding uponthat, as companies are investing in different markets and people have accessto, funds and, and resources and things like that. How do you think thatchanges the landscape? Being that a lot of companies will probably startadopting more digital currency to, to transact with businesses?

How does that shift the, the, theparadigm with investment? How does that change the landscape? Just purespeculation, but I'm curious if, if you know what your opinion is, seeing,seeing what you have seen.  

Sean: I, I, I think the bigchange is actually going to be expanding, or to put it another way,democratizing the investor class.

Right, because to be able to invest,particularly in, in, in, in growth startups, you, you, you have to have eithercertain contacts, a certain amount of money, maybe you have to be, classes, asophisticated investor. There's regulatory hoops there as well. There's,there's a lot of sort of crowdfunding platforms that have appeared in recentyears, and I think that's some ways towards it.

But having the ability to, to raise somesort of money or create vehicles in the, in the digital currency space. Ofcourse there's still gonna be regulations that might apply there, but I thinkthat's gonna open the door for a lot more people to be investing. And then thatwill influence ultimately who ends up getting invested into.

So I think that's gonna be the biggestchange and probably the biggest spotlight shown by regulators maybe in a fewyears as well.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Outsideof, obviously what you're doing now, what, what is what is an area withinblockchain that the technology has say, not touched, tapped into, that you'reparticularly excited about?

You're, you're kind of keeping a watchon in terms of how it's gonna affect, say, a certain industry or certainproduct. What in particular have you seen out there that you're particularlyexcited about? Maybe not working on a Stronghold, but, auxiliary or adjacent orat least in your kind of review.

Sean: Yeah, something I usedto hear a lot about actually. So people were definitely thinking about it andI'm sure they are now. But it was when IOT was the big, the phrase it used tohear all the time. And I think that the ability to have, devices and now AI isin the mix again. Right? So maybe AI enabled or aware IOT devices that are nowcontrolling their own currencies.

Yeah. Well, their, their own wallets.Right. I think that's super interesting and I'm surprised that I haven't heardquite as much about that recently. I'm sure there's a lot of people working onit, because that's gonna be huge. Yeah. So definitely eyes on that space, howAI or devices might be able to, make payments and, and get access to resources.

Right. Just join the economy as theirown entities.  

Julian: Yeah. How has AIaffected your business? Or, or do you see it affecting your business at all,kind of moving forward?  

Sean: Yeah, we, we, weactually just talked about this at, at our company meeting yesterday. It's comeup a few times. There's certainly use for it in a software org, right.

Have engineers using GitHub co-pilot.Right. We we're still trying to think about the best uses for it right now. I,I'll use it to read and, and and write emails, right. Because, that saves me abunch of time. But beyond that, it's still early days for us trying to figureit out.

Yeah. Yeah. So new and it's evolving soquickly. But. Yeah, we're, we're definitely looking at  

Julian: that.  

Yeah. You said it helps you read andwrite emails more quickly. Do you have any productivity tools that you're,you're keeping keep a secret?  

Sean: I, I'm, I'm prettysimple. I have a to-do list. My email inbox is my main to-do list, to behonest.

And then chat GP three on the side.That's, that's it. Keep it simple, right? I don't want too many things tothink  

Julian: about.  

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. I alwayslike to ask this question because I love how founders extract knowledge out ofanything that they ingest, whether it's early in your career now, what booksare people have really influenced you the most?

Sean: You know, For me, I thinkthat there's, there's so much information. I felt like early on for me it wasinformation overload. And for that reason I really relied on key people in mylife. So finding mentors who, have grown a business previously to sort of helpme filter that through and really just sitting down, spending time with them,understanding how they build their business.

That's really how I went about learningearly on. For me personally, having a bunch of books, it's just too much. It'soverwhelming. Sure.  

Julian: Yeah. Right. Yeah, onething I I actually, I, I was gonna ask before, but I, it just popped in myhead, is, as a cto, somebody who's been around technology a lot, how do yousee, kind of like no code, or low-code, kind of technology platforms and, and frameworksmoving into blockchain and is it moving at a more rapid rate than previously,and how is it.

What are you, are you excited about theability for companies to adopt, digital economy with these no-code platformsand really kind of be very I guess, what is the word for it? Scrapping in termsof how they kind of create business and, and things along that, alongthat?  

Sean: I, I, I love to lookat those platforms and I'm sure a lot of people are aware of the benefits ofthem.

My main concern is though it's money atthe end of the day, right? And money on blockchain is incredibly easy to lose.So I hope that there are, specific platforms that are really putting on, again,those guide rails or those, training wheels to help developers understand thator, or keep them from the dangers that may be using sort of building blockstyle or AI generated code.

That's a, another worry there. Could,could lead to some losses, right? We've got. The best engineers in the spacewriting, smart contracts today and money is disappearing, all over the place.Right. Take that a level lower where someone's using building blocks to putthat together.

It's potentially dangerous. So that'sone concern. However, the ability for more companies to be able to join thedigital economy using these platforms, that's fantastic. So more outreach.Great. That's, that's really super. But. I hope we're being careful.  

Julian: Yeah. I always like toask this founders don't really think about this, or they do, but if you weren'tworking on Stronghold, what would you be doing?

Sean: I, I'd probably be atmedicals. I'd probably be a doctor now. So there we go.  

Julian: There you go. Thereyou go. At least you had a more clearly defined career path than, than others.But always like to make sure we didn't leave anything on the table here. Sean,I know we're coming to the close the episode, but is there any question Ididn't ask you that I shouldn't have or anything that we didn't cover that youwish we did?

Anything that we left on the table heretoday?  

Sean: I think you've done agreat job, Julian.  

Julian: Thank you, Sean. Iappreciate that. And last little bit is where can we find you for our audiencesake, where can we find you as a founder? What are your LinkedIns, what areyour websites? What are your Twitters? And also, where can we find Strongholdand really start being a fan and up to date on where the technology isevolving?

Where can we be supporters of, of youand and the company?  

Sean: Yeah, so StrongholdsLinks, were all found at Stronghold.co/social Stronghold.co/social. And myhandle is, it's Sean Bennett on. Ev everywhere you can find me.

Julian: I love that. Sean,it's been such a pleasure learning about your background, your experience, butalso Stronghold kind of what the, the conception of the technology was and, andwhat is it expanding to now, and what that really means for people who arelooking to get access to financial services, but also, really tackle theproblems of remittance for those who have that issue.

It's exciting to hear where the companyis today, but also where it's going to in, in the next few years down the line.And I hope you enjoyed yourself on the show today. But thank you for joining uson Behind, Company Lines.  

Sean: Had a great time.Thanks for having me on.  

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